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Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Doresh posted:

Measurements

Aventuria uses the metric system, renamed to sound more "historical". Meters are steps, kilometers are miles, kilograms are stones and tons are ashlars. Smaller measurements are usually come in multiples of 20 or 25 to make it less granular than the actual metric system. A stone for example equals 4 ounces.
This sounds absolutely infuriating and custom-designed to confuse the poo poo out of people.

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Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Zereth posted:

This sounds absolutely infuriating and custom-designed to confuse the poo poo out of people.
I'm guessing they're targetting a German audience who probably do not know what the gently caress our filthy Englander customary units based on the length of a king's foreskin and the size of a sheep's bladder are, but they kind of know the NAMES... so, you know, "we use the systems you're used to, but we changed the names to olde-timey ones!"

Like when they ask for "five dubloons" at pirate week at the ren faire.

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


Pretty much. Everyone here knows that miles exist - and may have heard of those mystical ounces - but nobody actually uses them, or knows the exact conversion to metric units. Exceptions include inches if you're into Warhammer, or feet if your into Pathfinder/D&D and have to convert English stuff that uses 5-feet steps instead of the 1.5 meter steps from the translations.

Using ye olde German measurements was most likely out of the question because good luck finding unified measurements or even currencies in the clusterfuck that was medieval and Renaissance Germany.

Mr. Maltose posted:

Holy poo poo it's literally Guy Gardner with a sword.

Just needs a little bit more green.

Doresh fucked around with this message at 21:19 on Sep 6, 2015

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


Doresh posted:

Just needs a little bit more green.

Well, during the 90s he didn't have a power-ring. Instead he turned his arms into guns using alien DNA.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Mr.Misfit posted:

I like the way ZeeToo speaks about Age of Worms and since Doresh is already speaking about the rule books, would you be interested in walking through TDE modules the same way?

Oh man, I would love that. Walk-throughs of bad modules are always great.

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


I just remember that I have a digital beginners module floating on my hard drive that got packaged with Drakensang (along with the pdf of the base book I'm using for this review along with my hazy memory and the official grog wiki). I can't recally if it is particularly riffable, though. Gotta read through it eventually.

Kurieg posted:

Well, during the 90s he didn't have a power-ring. Instead he turned his arms into guns using alien DNA.


Oh 90s comics. You never fail to deliver. Though I am disappointed by the lack of pouches.

Doresh fucked around with this message at 17:09 on Sep 7, 2015

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.





Here's an Afterthought episode we just posted. It's pretty neat, we interview the author of one of the micro RPGs we covered in the previous episode, but also have him stick around to answer our ludicrous listener questions. It's James D'Amato, the host of the way, way, significantly way more popular show than ours, One Shot Podcast.

Strange Matter
Oct 5, 2009

Ask me about Genocide


As someone's whose childhood is an island amidst a sea of Car Talk, that introduction was pitch perfect.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Strange Matter posted:

As someone's whose childhood is an island amidst a sea of Car Talk, that introduction was pitch perfect.

Mine too. Love those guys, still listen whenever I can get in a car on a Saturday.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

I've read through the Cypher System Corebook, or the book setting-agnostic, system-only version of Monte Cook's Numenera, and in lieu of a full page-by-page review I'm just going to talk about it here because you really don't want or need me to go through this whole 400 page thing just to make a point.

The core mechanic:

1. The GM sets a number from 1 to 10 to represent the difficulty of a task
2. A player's Skills can reduce the difficulty number by 1 or 2
3. A player's Assets, which is a more generic term for a circumstantial bonus, can further reduce the difficulty number by 1 or 2
4. A player can spend Effort, which costs points out of their stat pool, in order to further reduce the difficulty number yet again
5. A player's Edge can reduce the cost of the Effort so that you don't need to spend as many points from your stat pool just to get the same difficulty reduction
6. If at any point between 2 to 5 the difficulty is reduced to 0, then the player succeeds automatically
7. If the difficulty is still at least a 1, multiply it by three to get a target number, and then the player rolls a d20, and they succeed if they get higher than the target number

It should be fairly obvious what the problem with all this is: despite being marketed as such, it's not actually a rules-light game. I got about 50 pages into character creation before I realized that keeping track of your skills, your stat pool, your Edge, your activated special abilities and your situational modifiers is going to be an awful lot of book-keeping even when you're comparing it to something like D&D 3.5, because at least there "make a Climb check" means looking up a single pre-calculated number and adding it to your d20.

A real rules-light game like say Lasers and Feelings gets by with something like "throw one die baseline, add another if your class/skill applies, add another if you have a situational bonus" and then you look for a number of successes. John Harper's Blades in the Dark ups the ante a bit by also including "throw one die at the cost of some effort" and you're starting to get something that more closely resembles Cypher's core mechanic, but they're doing it by adding whole dice as a broad, quick-to-remember guideline rather than having you muck around with integer math.

And I get that no writer is ever going to really disparage their own work inside their own book, but it really sounded obnoxious to me how in both the GM section and in the introductory section Cook just goes on and on about how this system is such a better way of doing things, primarily because the target number is supposed to be based on the task itself, irrespective of the "power level" of the characters. That is, if they're trying to cross a particularly deadly bridge, you assign a certain difficulty to it, and that's supposed to be the target number of that task forever. Whereas in any other game you might "adjust the difficulty" if the players try it again 2 levels later, the players instead are going to have a better set of Skills, Assets, Pools and Edges to deal with it, so that maybe where they could only lower the bridge's difficulty from 4 to 2 before, they can reduce it from 4 to 1 now. Or they reduce it to 0 and succeed automatically!

I don't really agree with this approach though because by implication it means Monte Cook is still designing a simulationist game at heart. Of course you're supposed to adjust the difficulty of certain tasks - because you only want to focus on the things that are exciting or produce tension! If the party is making their way through an abandoned installation with a bunch of closed doors, you don't need to make them roll against opening every single door up until you get to the one that they need to open to escape the Big Bad in a hurry.

quote:

When do you roll?

Any time your character attempts a task, the GM assigns a difficulty to that task, and you roll a d20 against the associated target number.

When you jump from a burning vehicle, swing an axe at a mutant beast, swim across a raging river, identify a strange device, convince a merchant to give you a lower price, craft an object, use a power to control a foe’s mind, or use a blaster rifle to carve a hole in a wall, you make a d20 roll. However, if you attempt something that has a difficulty of 0, no roll is needed—you automatically succeed. Many actions have a difficulty of 0. Examples include walking across the room and opening a door, using a special ability to negate gravity so you can fly, using an ability to protect your friend from radiation, or activating a device (that you already understand) to erect a force field. These are all routine actions and don’t require rolls.

Using skill, assets, and Effort, you can decrease the difficulty of potentially any task to 0 and thus negate the need for a roll. Walking across a narrow wooden beam is tricky for most people, but for an experienced gymnast, it’s routine. You can even decrease the difficulty of an attack on a foe to 0 and succeed without rolling.

So instead of a system where the GM is just free to handwave a task as not needing a roll right now because it's not dramatically relevant, what Cook seems to be proposing is that any moderately complex/difficult task still has to be rolled for ... except when you assume that a combination of Asset+Skill+Effort+Edge will passively reduce the difficulty to 0 so that you succeed anyway, which is functionally equivalent to letting the GM just handwave-away certain tasks in the first place!

I'm just going to leave it at that for now because I realize there's more to this book than I want to cover in a single post.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

gradenko_2000 posted:

And I get that no writer is ever going to really disparage their own work inside their own book, but it really sounded obnoxious to me how in both the GM section and in the introductory section Cook just goes on and on about how this system is such a better way of doing things, primarily because the target number is supposed to be based on the task itself, irrespective of the "power level" of the characters. That is, if they're trying to cross a particularly deadly bridge, you assign a certain difficulty to it, and that's supposed to be the target number of that task forever. Whereas in any other game you might "adjust the difficulty" if the players try it again 2 levels later, the players instead are going to have a better set of Skills, Assets, Pools and Edges to deal with it, so that maybe where they could only lower the bridge's difficulty from 4 to 2 before, they can reduce it from 4 to 1 now. Or they reduce it to 0 and succeed automatically!

I don't really agree with this approach though because by implication it means Monte Cook is still designing a simulationist game at heart. Of course you're supposed to adjust the difficulty of certain tasks - because you only want to focus on the things that are exciting or produce tension! If the party is making their way through an abandoned installation with a bunch of closed doors, you don't need to make them roll against opening every single door up until you get to the one that they need to open to escape the Big Bad in a hurry.

I'm rather the opposite; I like simulation in my games (the caveat to which is that I generally like the kind of simulation where the referee says "but since you have basically all the time in the world, there's no way you won't be able to open this door without consequences, so we don't need to roll"), and this is so incredibly obnoxious because... all games do this. Well, maybe not all of them, but truly, what game these days doesn't make it easier to cross the same bridge after you've levelled up your Cross Bride skill? In early editions of D&D, each class would have Cross Bridge percentage that increased with level. In 3rd edition D&D and onwards each bridge would have a static Bridge-Crossing DC, and putting ranks into Cross Bridge would increase your chance of beating it. In every edition of GURPS a bridge would be represented by a set penalty to your Cross Bridge skill; put more points into it, and the probability of successfully crossing becomes higher. Call of Cthulhu? The higher your Use Bridge skill, the more likely you are to succeed. FATE? The Bridge has a rating on the Success Ladder you need to beat; the more Attributes/Skills/Aspects/Stunts/whatever you have in bridge-crossing, the easier that gets. Either World of Darkness? Bridges have a static Difficulty rating, and the more points you have in Pretentious Bridge Crossing, the greater your chance of success is.

The most rules-light non-simulationist games there are? The Referee says "well, last time you were dirt-farmers trying to cross a difficulty bridge, but now you're legendary heroes, so there's no point in rolling."

Seriously, what horrible abomination of a game has Cook played, where putting points into your Cross Bridge skill makes all the bridges in the world proportionally more difficult to cross?

LornMarkus
Nov 8, 2011



LatwPIAT posted:

I'm rather the opposite; I like simulation in my games (the caveat to which is that I generally like the kind of simulation where the referee says "but since you have basically all the time in the world, there's no way you won't be able to open this door without consequences, so we don't need to roll"), and this is so incredibly obnoxious because... all games do this. Well, maybe not all of them, but truly, what game these days doesn't make it easier to cross the same bridge after you've levelled up your Cross Bride skill? In early editions of D&D, each class would have Cross Bridge percentage that increased with level. In 3rd edition D&D and onwards each bridge would have a static Bridge-Crossing DC, and putting ranks into Cross Bridge would increase your chance of beating it. In every edition of GURPS a bridge would be represented by a set penalty to your Cross Bridge skill; put more points into it, and the probability of successfully crossing becomes higher. Call of Cthulhu? The higher your Use Bridge skill, the more likely you are to succeed. FATE? The Bridge has a rating on the Success Ladder you need to beat; the more Attributes/Skills/Aspects/Stunts/whatever you have in bridge-crossing, the easier that gets. Either World of Darkness? Bridges have a static Difficulty rating, and the more points you have in Pretentious Bridge Crossing, the greater your chance of success is.

The most rules-light non-simulationist games there are? The Referee says "well, last time you were dirt-farmers trying to cross a difficulty bridge, but now you're legendary heroes, so there's no point in rolling."

Seriously, what horrible abomination of a game has Cook played, where putting points into your Cross Bridge skill makes all the bridges in the world proportionally more difficult to cross?

Literally the only instance I can think of where Adjustment was technically to the detriment of the player was the level adjusting in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, where every fight was a giant pain in the rear end the whole game through because of it, and you had the added bizarreness of the King's elite guard dropping garbage when they died, but ten levels fighting a random beggar with a silver sword.

JackMann
Aug 11, 2010

Secure. Contain. Protect.


Fallen Rib

That was actually one of the "issues" with 4e, which like most 4e issues came about either through poor presentation or else through people deliberately misreading it so they could hate it. The DCs for skills were based on your level. So crossing a bridge actually would get more difficult the higher your level.

The catch that people kept missing is that the bridge you cross at paragon is not the same bridge you cross at epic. Like, the bridge you're crossing at epic is made of hellfire and constantly sways in hurricane-force winds while demons throw stones down at you.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

It's crazy because even Cook understands that after a character levels up, performing a task that they already did before is going to be easier for them, but according to the rules the GM cannot just let them automatically perform the task, rather the players need to be able to work the math that proves that the difficulty has dropped to 0 after the GM assigns the objectively correct difficulty level for it.

I guess that it's one way of being able to work around a GM that fundamentally misunderstands how to assign skill check DCs, but it seems like an awful lot of work compared to just guiding the GM about basic principles.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

theironjef posted:



Here's an Afterthought episode we just posted. It's pretty neat, we interview the author of one of the micro RPGs we covered in the previous episode, but also have him stick around to answer our ludicrous listener questions. It's James D'Amato, the host of the way, way, significantly way more popular show than ours, One Shot Podcast.

I've got to indulge a nerd social fallacy here. And by that I mean defending a nebulous concept that wasn't attacked, but an alternative was praised. I'm going to speak up in defense of crunchy systems, that I feel got ragged on in this last Afterthought. I don't want to be an apologist for systems with hundreds of skills or allowing broken spellcasters. But there is a level of engagement in playing with character options like talents and equipment, especially with large, well designed catalogs to choose from. I think that's a reasonable way to be entertained by a game, even with the availability of short-form versions of that mechanic like the 4th Edition Board Games or competitive implementations like Star Wars Imperial Assault.

I like micro games as rules-lite designs, I can easily get non-gamers like my sister to play Everyone is John. That's good for the industry and the community. But I find Powered By the Apocalypse to be almost obsessively elegant. It's like a Kubrick movie for you or a Radiohead album for me. I get why its good, I really respect the craftsmanship and I just don't care. (Yeah, I said it, I don't like most of Radiohead.) Specifically, for really, really modern designs like Fate (which I also like) and PWBTA, I find myself thinking "If I wanted to write a story, I'd just write a story." I guess it's just personal preference then, that a looser rule set for me engenders less creativity and problem solving.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


I'm also fond of crunchy systems, it's just much rarer to find a crunchy system done well because it takes a huge amount of care and playtesting. Neither of these usually happen in the industry.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Speaking of good crunchy systems, what happened to that review of Harn?

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

My preference for "crunch" comes from how you can always (collaboratively) create a story, but a game that already has rules to let you adjudicate the effect of any given thing that happens in the game will let you enable the players to do that without having to pull something out of your rear end (and then wonder if you did it right).

Further, the important bit is that the crunch should only apply to whatever the theme of the game is. You shouldn't need a separate swimming skill or swimming rules if you're mostly playing a mountaineering game, ditto pages and pages of gunporn if it's about spelunking.

It's just that, as Night said, getting that sort of design right is quite a feat, so most "good" games fall into the less crunchy end of the spectrum where there's just enough for you to grasp onto without feeling all loosey-goosey, and the rest are general guidelines and you rely upon the table's ability to generate drama by themselves.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Night10194 posted:

I'm also fond of crunchy systems, it's just much rarer to find a crunchy system done well because it takes a huge amount of care and playtesting. Neither of these usually happen in the industry.

Points that I will not contest. I think it's also much easier to make fun of bad crunch because bad crunch becomes ridiculous while bad... sponge (? PBTA isn't really fluffy is it.) Bad sponge becomes boring unless it's so out of its mind insane it becomes Nobilis.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


ZorajitZorajit posted:

Points that I will not contest. I think it's also much easier to make fun of bad crunch because bad crunch becomes ridiculous while bad... sponge (? PBTA isn't really fluffy is it.) Bad sponge becomes boring unless it's so out of its mind insane it becomes Nobilis.

The thing is, at the same time, when you do get good crunch it adds a lot. Especially as it's usually written with the same kind of care to theme and atmosphere as good 'sponge' (I like this idea for the term for it). Like when I was reviewing Albedo, the crunch is used to make certain that combat is dangerous mentally, physically, and from the decisions you make, socially with all three elements of your character under threat, to promote acting as a team and working in good order over individual heroics, and to reinforce the theme that war is a nightmare to experience no matter how necessary via rules like you, the PC, also suffering mental damage from using particularly horrifying weapons.

Grnegsnspm
Oct 20, 2003

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarian 2: Electric Boogaloo

ZorajitZorajit posted:

I've got to indulge a nerd social fallacy here. And by that I mean defending a nebulous concept that wasn't attacked, but an alternative was praised. I'm going to speak up in defense of crunchy systems, that I feel got ragged on in this last Afterthought. I don't want to be an apologist for systems with hundreds of skills or allowing broken spellcasters. But there is a level of engagement in playing with character options like talents and equipment, especially with large, well designed catalogs to choose from. I think that's a reasonable way to be entertained by a game, even with the availability of short-form versions of that mechanic like the 4th Edition Board Games or competitive implementations like Star Wars Imperial Assault.

I like micro games as rules-lite designs, I can easily get non-gamers like my sister to play Everyone is John. That's good for the industry and the community. But I find Powered By the Apocalypse to be almost obsessively elegant. It's like a Kubrick movie for you or a Radiohead album for me. I get why its good, I really respect the craftsmanship and I just don't care. (Yeah, I said it, I don't like most of Radiohead.) Specifically, for really, really modern designs like Fate (which I also like) and PWBTA, I find myself thinking "If I wanted to write a story, I'd just write a story." I guess it's just personal preference then, that a looser rule set for me engenders less creativity and problem solving.

Thing is, I love crunchy systems mostly because it gives me something to play with. While a rules lite system might allow for easier or faster play, a good crunchy system lets me play a different kind of game. The comparison in boardgames got brought up on the show of the difference between playing something like Apples to Apples or busting out Twilight Imperium. While I can get my grandmother to play Apples to Apples that doesn't mean that it's inherently a better game. I loving love Twilight Imperium and how stupid huge and complex it is. I think we end up spending so much time talking about games that are more "spongy" or storygame type on the podcast because the poo poo we review is full of the worst crunch ideas even if the setting is cool. So at that point if we want to talk about playing in that universe it naturally trends toward "Just run it in FATE or PBTA" because they are made to be easier to move things over into.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



I think we may have actually veered closer towards praising crunch in that answer if the question was a little more direct. As it was the question was sort of trying to lead us into admitting that Fate and 4e have a dearth of options and are naturally restrictive games, which is crazy.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

I like a degree of crunch in my games...I like mechanical bits and levers, I like mechanically interesting and distinct options, but finding games that do that well instead of "here's a list of 100 guns, five of them are good, solve for gun" is kind of a chore sometimes. Also to go with the Apples to Apples analogy, easier to grasp games may not be inherently better but as someone who's spent a lot of time lately learning how to teach new players various board games in a manner that clearly conveys information in a readily digestible form without overloading them and causing them to tune out, a lot of RPGs are really loving bad at conveying information well. Most RPGs make you flip back and forth to piece things together more than any FFG board game manual could ever dream of, and crunchier games tend to wind up being more obtuse as a result.

For example, Fantasycraft. Fantasycraft is in many ways "3.X D&D done well." It's a game with a lot of care and love put into it that actually does things like give characters (including Fighters) unique and interesting abilities, tries to make Feats less lovely and more interesting, gives you all sorts of mechanical levers for altering how aspects of the game works through a system of "mutators" to do things like "everyone gets more of X feats per Y levels, adjust XP rewards this way to compensate." It tries to make the typical list of fantasy weapons mean something so there's maybe a reason for you to choose between the half dozen presented types of dagger-like weapon. It's got subsystems for its subsystems.

But holy poo poo is it a pain in the rear end to lay that out and get someone going with it. Just like it's a pain in the rear end to get someone going in Twilight Imperium, which is a game that I managed to play once, lasted four hours, and we never even got close to finishing it. So while I may admire the platonic ideal of playing a game like Twilight Imperium I find I much prefer the ability to actually successfully field and play games that are less convoluted and more accessible to people who aren't huge loving turbonerds like me (but may still be nerds in their own way).

Flavivirus
Dec 13, 2011

The next stage of evolution.

Threeforged Game Design Contest - RPG review lightning round



Over the past few months a few hundred game designed have been writing micro-RPGs, handing each game off to another author in three different phases. The games are now complete, all 102 of them, and I've been reading through the results and writing micro-reviews. There's a lot of great games here - I'd recommend checking out the ones that sound interesting to you, as they're only 4000 words at most! The voting phase of the contest is still ongoing, so if you want to help decide a winner check it out.

Untitled 1: A road trip into the heart of magically-devastated Russia to save napoleonic-era Europe. I think it did reasonably cool things with the travel mechanic - preparation is encouraged, and so is making use of the things you find on the way. With a bit more editing and proper layout, it could be a nice, directed experience, not sure what the point was of name checking such a simple system though?

Untitled 2: experimental physicists and the elementals they've accidentally created. The setting didn't grab me, and the system seemed too generic - the only point at which differences between characters even exist are if the players bring them into their narration. When your character types (randomly determined!) are so different I really feel that should feed into your system somehow.

Untitled 3: Magical agents trying to preserve the wizarding world's separation from the mundane. Character creation and system uses Lady Blackbird-like talent groups, with plenty of examples provided - thumbs up! I liked how the agents had to strike a balance between fitting in with the Mundane and the Magical, while their job's stresses make them less able to fit into either. Good potential for drama, as well as for urban fantasy adventure.

20.6 Miles: Napoleonic-era spy agencies feuding with each other over the English channel. The system is very simple but has a great potential for double-crosses, alliances and drama - pretty much every rules bit looks like it drives play towards the intended fiction. Plus it has great examples of play and fiction bits to get the setting across.

Ad Libitum Absurdity: a nice theme I hadn't seen elsewhere - actors trying to break out of typecasting while fulfilling their life goals. The core system is pretty light and fun, although I don't know how well the random film generation would work; the examples in the book seemed pretty ropey already.

Alien Passion Disaster: A game about different aliens (and humanity) fighting, exploring and getting emotionally involved. I liked the trait auction a lot, especially how a positive trait becomes pointed at the lowest bidder. I found the rest of the rules writing very difficult to follow, though, although the Heart deck (and how it got marked over the game) seemed pretty fun. Generally though, I'm not sure why I wouldn't just play Lasers and Feelings.

American Heroes: Superhero team fighting supervillains. It seems like a pretty barebones system that could do with another editing and focusing pass - the intro seems like it's going for an Adult Swim Sentai sort of feel but that doesn't come through at all in the mechanics. Plus there's some eyebrow-raising gender-related stuff that could easily be trimmed.

Among Humans: A Doomed Pilgrim-a-like (is there a better world?) where the player is a monster trying to blend in with humanity, asking set questions to the internet commentariat to determine what course the story takes. Adds in factions to the responding commentators, giving them different agendas and specifying when you ask questions of each. Straightforward presentation and rules, and seems like it'd be pretty interesting to play (although you'll need at least 3 commentators for it to work). There's a few things that could do with changing - for example as written there's no point where you explain your monster's abilities or tells to the audience, which seems like it should be part of the setup - but overall it was a pretty fun read! 

I liked Anonym a lot - some of that is certainly that I'm a fan of Lacuna, but this does enough interesting things of its own (bureaucratic and competitive character creation! true-name based implied setting! really simple and direct instructions for GMs on how to run the game and what the different factions want!) that I reckon it stands apart.

Anthill: This one impressed me with its setting - recently sentient and mutated ants trying to protect and grow their anthill after an apocalypse. The collaborative setting-building reminded me of an insect-scale A Quiet Year, and while I don't generally like percentile systems this does interesting things with them to make resolution less binary. Plus there's random mutations to roll for, which are always fun, and the presentation and formatting of the PDF and character sheets are top-notch.

Next up: robot detectives, wayward apprentices, and Campbellian Monomyth.

Forums Terrorist
Dec 8, 2011



Kai Tave posted:

I like a degree of crunch in my games...I like mechanical bits and levers, I like mechanically interesting and distinct options, but finding games that do that well instead of "here's a list of 100 guns, five of them are good, solve for gun" is kind of a chore sometimes.

I'm working on a hack for Mercenary Air Squadron to fix some issues I ran into last time I ran it and i've been bouncing ideas off IRC, and invariably the plane list ballooned because a) it's easy to dump stats into a list, and b) people like going "but what about $thing". At least in Millenium's End (which I should F&F at some point) gun damage is entirely a function of the bullet it shoots, and the actual difference between guns is a tradeoff between how fast you can take actions and how accurate it is or how many buwwets you get. Also ME gets points for having a melee system where you roll defense first and if it passes you bypass the rest.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




LatwPIAT posted:

Seriously, what horrible abomination of a game has Cook played, where putting points into your Cross Bridge skill makes all the bridges in the world proportionally more difficult to cross?
It actually sounds like he made a deliberate sop to people who believed that "When high-level characters cross bridges, it's magically harder to cross them!" canard about D&D 4th edition.

Can anybody point me to anything to indicate that Monte Cook is actually a skilled designer? AFAIK he built his reputation by writing books that give PCs goodies, mostly to spellcasters. Everything I read about the Numenera rules indicated that Cook is a Johnny-come-lately to introducing narrative rules into games, and his latest work contains awkward knock-offs of stuff that originated in Fudge/Fate and was better implemented in 13th Age. And now it's received high praise from an audience that disdains "storygames."

Flavivirus
Dec 13, 2011

The next stage of evolution.

Threeforged Game Design Contest - RPG review lightning round pt. 2



Time for a second dive into the results of the Threeforged challenge - as a reminder you can get the games here.

Apprentice, Wizard, Familiar: This is the sort of game I'd love to have to play with a group of kids. It's collaborative with no competition between players; it's creative but with plenty of prompts to stop people getting stuck; it's charming with enough hints of danger to keep people invested. Some people might not count it as a true roleplaying game - the group tells a story about the titular Apprentice, and doesn't have distinct characters of their own unless they claim one of the Familiars - but I think it's pretty dang successful at what it wants to do.

Aquila: a game about characters, families and factions exploring and building a new life on a new land over scales that range from days to centuries. It's a theme I enjoy, but the game feels like it could do with more focus. With little setting detail or constraints your enjoyment is mainly going to depend on how good your table is at creating scenes, and I'm not sure the dice mechanic brings the drama. Plus, expanding and improving the island is based on spending 'insights', but it never seems to go into how you get them. Still, the collaborative island building is pretty cool.

Arcane Engines: the engines of the title are people given sudden reality-warping power that will eventually send them mad or isolated from the world, but gives them great power for the duration. I'd say character creation is a little heavy, but the round structure looks like it'd give a good feeling of time advancing as organisations respond to this crisis and the conflict resolution does interesting things with limiting your options and interfering with others.

At Any Cost: one player is a hero going on a monomythic journey, the other is their antagonist. It's not about if the hero succeeds - the bidding and raising system always lets the player fold and sacrifice something important to them to win a stage - but how the journey changes them. It's a neat concept, and I really liked the card design, but it feels like the card mechanic dominates gameplay to such an extent that roleplaying is limited to what you would see in Once Upon a Time or similar - creating a post-hoc story that strings together the cards you play into some kind of story.

Automaton: PCs are AI investigators called in to help human detectives solve a crime in a highly segregated world - AIs have very few rights and there's a lot of anti-robot prejudice. This is reflected nicely in the system - there's also a human team investigating the crime, and corruption and prejudice among them can hinder the players. It has a nice system for helping the GM build a crime ad-hoc, though I'd want a but more support for red herrings and dead ends. Also, in a really nice touch, a player's choice of actions is constrained by their position on a flowchart, as the AIs are still somewhat controlled by their programming. Unfortunately the dice notation and rolling mechanic are somewhat obtuse, as otherwise I'd really like this one.

Bag Pulling Game: More of an isolated conflict system than a full game, and as such it's completely generic and not terribly attention-grabbing. The way your bag's contents changes over the course of a conflict could be pretty cool, though it's hard to be sure of the implications without giving it a play.

Bakehouse Brawl: The pro wrestling/cookery TV show fusion is inspired! Nice, simple and quirky system. Could've done with more quirks, but I like how you have to balance making progress on your bake, defending yourself from other's attacks, and disrupting their cooking. Plus I'm super into the Great British Bake-Off at the moment so the judge descriptions were great :D

Blue Shift: Kinda reminded me of HoL done right - the characters are the products of a primordial soup made from a universe's landfill, galactic society's discards mixed together and given life by DNA, magic and random chance. Plus the character's goals and secrets are tied together very nicely to make a cool setup for a story. The dice mechanic is a bit weird but I'd be interested in testing it - basically you pick the traits you're using and assign them a dice size on the fly, then add fate dice into the mix that'll say whether the dice are added, neutralised or subtracted. Pretty chaotic, but that fits with the whole HoL/Low Life/Futurama aesthetic.

Bootleggers: Looks like it's going for a Firefly style, but I really wish it had dropped the tone after the intro. Just grated on me. I liked that you just jump into the job at the point where it goes wrong - bypass that kinda-tedious 'let's make a perfect plan' bog a lot of games can get stuck in. I really could have done with a lot more detail on the dice mechanic though - I've read through it a couple of times and still have no idea how you actually roll for things.

Children's Radio: I really like what it does with playbooks, and how they subvert the inoffensive children's story you're building together. Putting all the rules you need on a sheet in front of you gets a thumbs up from me. It seems like a game that'd work best when players don't know what other's playbooks even say, to keep the mystery of why tokens are being passed around. Speaking of the tokens, it never really said what you do with them - I guess the person who ends up with the most tokens is the winner? Still, it's a really neat game with simple, tight mechanics.

Conspiracy and Cowards: Plotting and sedition in a setting full of intrigue. I thought the setup had a little bit too much random generation for my liking, and conflict resolution had a ton of subsystems - card draws, favour trading, haiku writing (!), trump suits, etc. Still, it forms a solid core for the system and has enough moving parts to keep interest. The card-based playbooks are nice and flavourful as well, and interact well with the power dynamics established in the setting while giving people a lot of choice.

That's 0-C done - 24 down and 78 to go.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Flavivirus posted:

Threeforged Game Design Contest - RPG review lightning round


Over the past few months a few hundred game designed have been writing micro-RPGs, handing each game off to another author in three different phases. The games are now complete, all 102 of them, and I've been reading through the results and writing micro-reviews. There's a lot of great games here - I'd recommend checking out the ones that sound interesting to you, as they're only 4000 words at most! The voting phase of the contest is still ongoing, so if you want to help decide a winner check it out.


Keep doing these, there's no way I am reading all of those but I am interested in the ideas people have come up with!

Davin Valkri
Apr 8, 2011

Maybe you're weighing the moral pros and cons but let me assure you that OH MY GOD
SHOOT ME IN THE GODDAMNED FACE
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!


Forums Terrorist posted:

I'm working on a hack for Mercenary Air Squadron to fix some issues I ran into last time I ran it and i've been bouncing ideas off IRC, and invariably the plane list ballooned because a) it's easy to dump stats into a list, and b) people like going "but what about $thing".

It's not my fault the J35J is so cool-looking! :saddowns:

Forums Terrorist
Dec 8, 2011



I was just explaining how it happens. People always make fun of Shadowrun and such for that sort of thing but sometimes gearporn is fun. Also low crunch doesn't work in a game about planefites since you end up with boring posts ime. As long as you make the options meaningful and stay within a sane limit crunch is a valid tool.

LornMarkus
Nov 8, 2011



Another thing is that sometimes a degree of crunch is necessary to satisfyingly model a specific game concept. In a lot of its rules Legend of the Wulin is exceptionally FATE-like, but in Combat in particular it is way more complex and swingy with very permissive injury rules. That's because all those things together create something that inherently acts much more like a martial arts movie, with characters trading attacks back and forth until someone does something crazy out of nowhere only for the now injured guy to get back up and keep fighting with only a little awkwardness (or surrender/turn tail and run, which the system incentivizes over just fighting everything to death). You can work to have the same feel in FATE, but it doesn't happen as naturally or as satisfyingly without that extra crunch.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

Cypher System Corebook, part 2

I’m going to talk more about core mechanics, starting with this table:



I remember Tulul’s original F&F of Numenera being quite puzzled at the description of Task Difficulty 3 versus Task Difficulty 4, but I think I’ve got it:

Task Difficulty 3 translates to a target number of 9, so you have a 50/50 chance of succeeding on a raw roll of a d20. Task Difficulty 4 has a target number of 12, but it says trained people have a 50/50 chance of succeeding. What it’s trying to convey is that according to the rules of the game, if you’re Skilled in a task, then a Task Difficulty 4 is dropped to a Task Difficulty 3. It’s not really contradictory, wrong or redundant, just very confusingly worded.

quote:

For example, we make the distinction between something that most people can do and something that trained people can do. In this case, “normal” means someone with absolutely no training, talent, or experience. Imagine your ne’er-do-well, slightly overweight uncle trying a task he’s never tried before. “Trained” means the person has some level of instruction or experience but is not necessarily a professional.

Anyway. Let’s recap: the GM designates a Task Difficulty, then a player has three options to reduce the Task Difficulty: Skills, Assets and Effort.

At the same time, a character is composed of 3 parts: their Class Role, their Descriptor, and their Focus.

A character’s Descriptor defines their Skills.

A character with the Clever descriptor:

quote:

Skill: You’re trained in all interactions involving lies or trickery.
Skill: You’re trained in defense rolls to resist mental effects.
Skill: You’re trained in all tasks involving identifying or assessing danger, lies, quality, importance, function, or power.

A character with the Graceful descriptor:

quote:

Skill: You’re trained in all tasks involving balance and careful movement.
Skill: You’re trained in all tasks involving physical performing arts.
Skill: You’re trained in all Speed defense tasks.

This is where the game kinda-sorta plays around with the idea that it’s a “rules-light” or “story” game, because the definitions of what you’re skilled in can be quite broad, and you could maybe even make the case that if you approach a task gracefully, then you can still consider yourself Skilled in that task.

A character's Role defines the following:

1. The starting size of their Might, Speed and Intellect pools
2. The starting Edge value for their Might, Speed and Intellect pools
3. The cap on how much Effort they can exert
4. Their special abilities

A Warrior, for example, has a Might pool of 10, a Speed pool of 10, and an Intellect pool of 8. They also have a Might Edge of 1 and an Effort cap of 1.

The way this works is that you spend points from your pool to exert Effort, and exerting Effort reduces the task difficulty. You can spend 3 points from a pool to reduce the task difficulty by 1, and more effort after that costs 2 points to further reduce the task difficulty, so reducing the task difficulty by 2 requires 5 points: 3 points for the first Effort, 2 points for the second Effort.

The Effort cap means you cannot exert more than that much Effort at any one time, so while a character might have a pool of 10, they can't exert more than 1 Effort (3 points) for any given task.

Edge reduces the point cost of any expenditure you make. If a Warrior wanted to reduce the task difficulty of a Might task by exerting 1 Effort, it would cost them 2 points: 3 points base - 1 Might Edge. If they exerted Effort with a Speed or Intellect task, the Effort would cost them 3 points, because they don't have Edge in those stats (yet).

Edge also applies to any special abilities that cost points from your pool.

quote:

Control the Field (1 Might point): This melee attack inflicts 1 less point of damage than normal, but regardless of whether you hit the target, you maneuver it into a position you desire within immediate range. Action.

The above would cost the Warrior nothing to activate/use, because it costs 1 Might but the Warrior has 1 Might Edge.

quote:

Overwatch (1 Intellect point): You use a ranged weapon to target a limited area (such as a doorway, a hallway, or the eastern side of the clearing) and make an attack against the next viable target to enter that area. This works like a wait action, but you also negate any benefit the target would have from cover, position, surprise, range, illumination, or visibility. Further, you inflict 1 additional point of damage with the attack. You can remain on overwatch as long as you wish, within reason. Action.

The above would cost the Warrior 1 Intellect.

Finally, a character's Focus gives them yet another set of special abilities:

quote:

Bears a Halo of Fire

Additional Equipment: You have an artifact—a device that sprays inanimate objects to make them fire-resistant. All your starting gear has already been treated unless you don’t want it to be.

Fire Abilities: If you perform special abilities, those that would normally use force or other energy (such as electricity) instead use fire. For example, force blasts are blasts of flame. These alterations change nothing except the type of damage and the fact that it might start fires. As another example, a wall of energy instead creates a wall of roaring flames. In this case, the alteration changes the ability so that the barrier is not solid but instead inflicts 1 point of damage to anything that touches it and 4 points of damage to anyone who passes through it.

Tier 1: Shroud of Flame (1 Intellect point). At your command, your entire body becomes shrouded in flames that last up to ten minutes. The fire doesn’t burn you, but it automatically inflicts 2 points of damage to anyone who tries to touch you or strike you with a melee attack. Flames from another source can still hurt you. While the shroud is active, you gain +2 to Armor only against damage from fire from another source. Enabler.

quote:

Carries a Quiver

Additional Equipment: You start with a well-made bow and two dozen arrows.

Tier 1: Archer. To be truly deadly with a bow, you must know where to aim. You can spend points from either your Speed Pool or your Intellect Pool to apply levels of Effort to increase your bow damage. As usual, each level of Effort adds 3 points of damage to a successful attack. Enabler.

Fletcher. You are trained in making arrows. Enabler.

It's no accident that I'm trying to juxtapose "guy who is literally on fire" with "guy who can shoot arrows"

The last thing I haven't mentioned is Assets, these are basically both "roleplayed circumstantial bonuses" and "a way to explicitly grant a bonus from a special ability"

The following excerpt from the book covers the former use of Assets (as well as Effort and Edge):

quote:

A beginning character is fighting a giant rat. She stabs her spear at the rat, which is a level 2 creature and thus has a target number of 6. The character stands atop a boulder and strikes downward at the beast, and the GM rules that this helpful tactic is an asset that decreases the difficulty by one step (to difficulty 1). That lowers the target number to 3. Attacking with a spear is a Might action; the character has a Might Pool of 11 and a Might Edge of 0. Before making the roll, she decides to apply a level of Effort to decrease the difficulty of the attack. That costs 3 points from her Might Pool, reducing the Pool to 8. But they appear to be points well spent. Applying the Effort lowers the difficulty from 1 to 0, so no roll is needed—the attack automatically succeeds.

Where a GM might award a +2 to a +4 on a d20 roll in other D&D games after the player declares that they're swinging from a chandelier while making an attack, here it's called an Asset and is the functional equivalent of a +3.

And then an example of Assets in the latter case:

quote:

Distortion (2 Intellect points): You modify how a willing creature within short range reflects light for one minute. The target rapidly shifts between its normal appearance and a blot of darkness. The target has an asset on Speed defense rolls until the effect wears off. Action to initiate.

So it's a video game equivalent of a buff, and where in D&D this might be a Barkskin spell or whatever to provide a bonus to AC, here it's an Asset.

All this to say that there is an awful lot of fiddly math in this game.

1. The GM sets a task difficulty.

2. If the character, which the game proposes as being described as "an Adjective Noun that Verbs" (or further translated to "a Descriptor Role that Focus"), is Skilled at the task, and Skilled is a broad, 13th-Age-esque definition, then the task difficulty drops by 1 or 2. Okay, makes sense.

3. If the character has any other temporary or circumstantial bonus, then the GM can rule it as an Asset and the task difficulty drops by another 1 or 2. Still good. Step #2 is Lasers and Feelings' extra die if you're an expert, and step #3 is the extra die if you're prepared.

4. And then you get to the part where if you still want to reduce the task difficulty further, you need to spend 3 points from your pool to reduce the task difficulty by 1, except if it's the second Effort you're spending in which case it's only 2 points per Effort, but only if your Effort cap will allow you to exert more than 1 Effort, and then you subtract your Edge from the total point cost. Ouch.

5. And then you multiply the task difficulty by 3 to get the target number you need to beat with a d20 roll.

I don't even really get the point of the d20 conversion:

quote:

Rarely, an ability or piece of equipment does not decrease a task’s difficulty but instead adds a bonus to the die roll. Bonuses always add together, so if you get a +1 bonus from two different sources, you have a +2 bonus. If you get enough bonuses to add up to a +3 bonus for a task, treat it as an asset: instead of adding the bonus to your roll, decrease the difficulty by one step. Therefore, you never add more than +1 or +2 to a die roll.

This is a cop-out because none of the equipment nor Cyphers nor special abilities (that I've been able to scan through) award that partial +1 or +2 bonus, so it's only ever going to come into play if the GM wants to for whatever reason.

Finally, in response to this:

Halloween Jack posted:

It actually sounds like he made a deliberate sop to people who believed that "When high-level characters cross bridges, it's magically harder to cross them!" canard about D&D 4th edition.

I think he actually did do that, because he talks about it quite a bit:

quote:

If you’re talking about a task, ideally the difficulty shouldn’t be based on the character performing the task. Things don’t get inherently easier or harder depending on who is doing them. However, the truth is, the character does play into it as a judgment call. If the task is breaking down a wooden door, an 8-foot-tall (2 m) automaton made of metal with nuclear-driven motors should be better at breaking it down than an average human would be, but the task rating should be the same for both. Let’s say that the automaton’s nature effectively gives it two levels of training for such tasks. Thus, if the door has a difficulty rating of 4, but the automaton is specialized and reduces the difficulty to 2, it has a target number of 6. The human has no such specialization, so the difficulty remains 4, and he has to reach a target number of 12. However, when you set the difficulty of breaking down the door, don’t try to take all those differences into account. The GM should consider only the human because the Task Difficulty table is based on the ideal of a “normal” person, a “trained” person, and so on. It’s humanocentric.

I can feel my brain straining under the weight of this paragraph because he's just using circular logic to bring himself back to the way GM's have (ideally) always assigned target numbers in the first place.

quote:

Far more important than that level of precision is consistency. If the PCs need to activate a device that opens a spatial displacement portal, and the GM rules that it is a difficulty 6 task to get the antimatter rods spinning at the proper rates to achieve a specific harmonic frequency, then it needs to be a difficulty 6 task when they come back the next day to do it again (or there needs to be an understandable reason why it’s not). The same is true for simpler tasks like walking across a narrow ledge or jumping up onto a platform. Consistency is key. The reason is that players need to be able to make informed decisions. If they remember how hard it was to open that portal yesterday, but it’s inexplicably harder to open it today, they’ll get frustrated because they tried to apply their experience to their decision-making process, and it failed them. If there’s no way to make an informed decision, then all decisions are arbitrary.

Think about it in terms of real life. You need to cross the street, but a car is approaching. You’ve crossed the street thousands of times before, so you can look at the car and pretty easily judge whether you can cross safely or whether you have to wait for it to pass first. If the real world had no consistency, you couldn’t make that decision. Every time you stepped into the street, you might get hit by a car. You’d never cross the street.

Players need that kind of consistency, too. So when you assign a difficulty to a task, note that number and try to keep it consistent the next time the PCs try the same task. “Same” is the key word. Deciphering one code isn’t necessarily like deciphering another. Climbing one wall isn’t the same as climbing another.

You’ll make mistakes while doing this, so just accept that fact now. Excuse any mistakes with quick explanations about “a quirk of fate” or something along the lines of a surprisingly strong wind that wasn’t blowing the last time.

So yeah, he's absolutely calling out the whole "crossing a bridge" or "walking across an icy river" analogy, but he's trying to play off this ruleset as being something special because if a Cypher character comes back to the bridge two levels tiers later, the task difficulty should be the same, except now the character has a higher Edge, a higher stat pool, maybe more Skilled or has extra Assets to deal with it, because maybe he never got the memo that "the DC should remain the same" was always how it goddamn worked, even back in 3rd Edition D&D that he himself wrote! It's so petty!

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




Gotta throw that "doesn't break the laws of physics" into the task resolution. Can't let the filthy funhavers make a swordman what does cool things.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Halloween Jack posted:

Gotta throw that "doesn't break the laws of physics" into the task resolution. Can't let the filthy funhavers make a swordman what does cool things.

I remember in Spycraft 1.0, the Wheelman's capstone was 'Once per session, the DM cannot tell you not to break the laws of physics. That insane stunt you had planned just happens.'

Mr.Misfit
Jan 10, 2013

The time for
SkellyBones
has come!


quote:

[....]Think about it in terms of real life. You need to cross the street, but a car is approaching. You’ve crossed the street thousands of times before, so you can look at the car and pretty easily judge whether you can cross safely or whether you have to wait for it to pass first. If the real world had no consistency, you couldn’t make that decision. Every time you stepped into the street, you might get hit by a car. You’d never cross the street.

But....real life is inconsistent. You can cross a street a hundred thousand times only to find yourself being hit by a car on the hundred thousand and oneth attempt to cross the street. Maybe the driver was drunk. Maybe you had a bad day. Maybe there´s a fate that decreed you to be hit today. Maybe you were looking somewhere else. Maybe a freak event happened and someone lost control of their vehicle...

Outside circumstances are always arbitrary to an observer, even more so in tabletop rpgs where you have the GM who is the guy thinking this stuff up...and this hurts to think about...

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

Monte Cook, take credit for an old idea by presenting it as something new that he just came up with? Color me shocked.

PantsOptional
Dec 27, 2012

All I wanna do is make you bounce

Guys, come on, Monte doesn't do that sort of -

quote:

"what about what I like to call "passive perception"?

- well, gently caress.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

Forums Terrorist posted:

I'm working on a hack for Mercenary Air Squadron to fix some issues I ran into last time I ran it and i've been bouncing ideas off IRC, and invariably the plane list ballooned because a) it's easy to dump stats into a list, and b) people like going "but what about $thing".

This is also how virtually every D&D and D&D-derived game so far (excepting Next which is on life support) winds up with a billion lovely feats...quick little packets of crunch are quick to churn out, don't require any sort of extensive testing when your audience is totally cool with justifying the existence of trap options, and a lazy way to make a game look more robust.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


Next is on life support already? Jesus.

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Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

wdarkk posted:

Next is on life support already? Jesus.

Well, "life support." There's very little in the way of official first-party supplemental material coming out for it, things like adventure modules are being farmed out to third parties, the Dragon Magazine app they've moved to is bereft of useful content and isn't even properly formatted for a lot of mobile devices, there's still no character builder, etc. Didn't they not have a strong Gencon presence this year either?

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